Montclair Mom and Sommelier Writes Article About Teaching Kids About Wine

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (18)

Sharon Sevrens

Sharon Sevrens, sommelier and owner of Amanti Vino in Montclair, recently wrote an article for Huffington Post on why she and her husband have decided to teach their sons about wine and drinking before they are teenagers, a time many parents feel they should start the discussion.

Sevrens feels that by teaching her young children all about wine —its grape varietals and regions, the culture in which its grown, which food it pairs well with— they will not only get an understanding of something she feels passionate about, but will understand that drinking should be more about quality over quantity when they are mature enough to enjoy wine responsibly.


Asking, “What would happen if all American families were open and honest with their children about the pleasures and responsibilities of wine consumption? Could we reverse the culture of binge drinking that has become the norm among teens and college students?,” Sevrens refers to an Eric Asimov blog “Teenage Drinking: Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?” in which the wine critic for The New York Timescites a landmark study by a Harvard professor, “Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics than those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.”

“As you look at many countries in the Old World, such as Italy and France, wine is part of every lunch and every dinner; a spoonful of wine is mixed into the child’s water as a symbol that he or she is part of the family. It is not the forbidden fruit it has become this side of the Atlantic,” says Sevrens.

I couldn’t agree more.

Growing up with a Greek father, wine was always on the table and I was frequently allowed to have a sip. On New Year’s Eve or my 8th grade graduation, I was allowed to have the smallest glass of champagne, at dessert I was allowed to enjoy my father’s special strawberries with sugar and Brandy and topped with whipped cream.

On the other hand, my American maternal side, abused alcohol. It wasn’t shared with food, it was used to get drunk.

As a mom now, I take my father’s guide. My children see us enjoy a glass of wine, or sometimes a great beer, with our family meals. When they ask about the drinks, we explain them. We talk about how alcohol can be enjoyed with a meal and how that is different from getting drunk. I, like Sevrens, hope that I’m helping to create a healthy relationship with alcohol for when they are old enough to drink it.

 (Photo: Flickr)




  1. POSTED BY yougottalovehim  |  July 30, 2014 @ 9:24 am

    Very complicated issues. Americans like to believe that there is little alcohol abuse and greater respect for moderation in countries where alcohol is served in family settings in Europe. For that one study cited there are others showing no real difference in alcoholism rates across cultures where family drinking is the norm from countries like the US. Obviously tremendous binge drinking in many European countries. I have never hesitated to allow my kids a sip of my beer or wine (over 10). But to make teaching them about different kinds of alcohol some kind of goal? No. That in my mind will do nothing but make it all seem so very much an important part of growing up and will make it seem like I expect them to start drinking. I’d be happy if they spend less time thinking about the different varietals of wine and more time collecting baseball cards or whatever it is kids collect today.

  2. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 30, 2014 @ 10:17 am

    Ah, another free commercial for the pricey Amanti Vino on this site. And based on a kind of non-issue.

    On the other hand, I still remember a long, long ago article in either LiFE or TIME that talked about thousands and thousands of child alcoholics in France, a result of too many glasses of vin ordinaire rouge ou bhlanc.

  3. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  July 30, 2014 @ 11:12 am

    Like teaching abstinence only, you can’t hide the realities of the world from your children and expect them to make smart, educated decisions. It depends on the age, but it seems like common sense that parents would model the proper behavior for consuming alcohol. If you make it tabboo it becomes more mysterious and appealing. Have the influence at home while you can, because once they’re gone someone else will fill them in.

  4. POSTED BY yougottalovehim  |  July 30, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

    Agree, modeling proper behavior is key. Modeling is a lot different than saying “ok, kids, time for us to continue our discussion of the different reds from South America . . . .”

  5. POSTED BY zephyrus  |  July 30, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

    I disagree that this is a “free commercial” for Amanti Vino. They took initiative to write something relating to their interests. They are a business. They are situated in Montclair and so it makes sense that Barista should make note of this. More power them.

  6. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 30, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

    Fie Cathar… Methinks your verbal bullets are mis-aimed. A small business trying to survive in this lack luster economy while Corporate America leads our politicians around on puppet strings, paying no fair share and letting the little business person cough up more & more and then getting audited under the ploy of “Oh, its just random selection.”….Yeah, right!
    On the topic of family drinking, I go way, way back in experiencing alcohol abuse in my family. If you don’t have that random booze-hound gene then thank your lucky stars! I worried about that for years in my youth then finally realized I was missing that gene. Now if could just find that “need to exercise daily” gene then I could go out in a blaze of sweaty glory!

  7. POSTED BY qby33  |  July 30, 2014 @ 10:48 pm

    Funny, my child has one parent who doesn’t ever drink and one that might on a very rare occasion. He constantly wonders why so many of his friends’ parents seem to drink every time we are around them. We do not shelter him, actually we are quite honest with him. We share our views that, we ourselves, have no idea why so many people seem to need so much alcohol in their life. Maybe there could be a follow up article explaining that to us?

  8. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 30, 2014 @ 10:56 pm

    qby33….You seem very naive. I think you should research & write the article to inform the rest of us.

  9. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 30, 2014 @ 11:15 pm

    Fie back, zephyrus and Paz. Many local businesses seem to go in and out of favor on this site. (Now, however, as per Manhattan Bagel today, they can buy their way back in with a “sponsored post,” an ingenuously slippery way to title an ad.) But Amanti Vino has remained in favor for years, and I’d bet knowing the proprietors of this site helps. It sure isn’t because of their aggressive discount pricing policy. How naive do you two “guys” want to be?

    And with 3 years in the Army, Paz, I saw a fair amount of alcohol abuse myself. Plus I’ve read a fair amount of James T. Farrell and John O’Hara and J.F. Powers (all Irish-Americans, as it happens), novelists who knew a thing or two about the corruptive effects of drinking.

    There’s also a difference between kids learning from a young age to respect the social enjoyment that drinking may bring to family gatherings and actually giving the little creeps a sip or two, I suspect.

  10. POSTED BY qby33  |  July 31, 2014 @ 7:50 am

    Actually, not naive, I use to drink quite a bit myself. I grew up. I just find it ridiculous that so many people in this world can’t seem to make it through one day without a drink. How many times do we all hear..”ugh, is it 5:00 yet?”. Just sounds like people rely on alcohol too much to get through life. It’s unfortunate.

  11. POSTED BY qby33  |  July 31, 2014 @ 8:05 am

    Paz and others, here is some fact based reading for you….

  12. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 31, 2014 @ 9:59 am

    Thank you, qby33,

    Considering all the “guns are bad” posts here, it struck me as, well, irresponsible.

    Kids get killed everyday by drunk drivers- being drunk themselves, or by drunk drivers. That we now want them to “learn” about wine is silly on its face.

    Amanti Vino is a great local store, but considering the times we live in, I cannot for the life of me understand the idea of “teaching” (meaning giving underaged kids alcohol) is worthy of their time. Parents are free to introduce alcohol in any way they like (as many here have commented). But to see an owner of liquor store (that’s all it is) suggesting that we all should break the law is, as I said, irresponsible.

    Also, the article here cite this “landmark” study, well checking the link you find it’s 30 years old “study” that followed 136 people for 40 years. Not sure this qualifies as “landmark.” The article cites a more recent study from Italy of 160 people, but the author “cautioned against extrapolating from Italy to the United States.”

    So for me, there is NO evidence that introducing alcohol, excuse me, WINE, to kids is a good idea.

    As for college— kids drink and don’t drink in college for lots of reasons— but no evidence what so ever, has been given that suggests exposure to wine has an influence. I do, however, look forward to someone offering a link.

    The owners here can post what they like– it’s their site. But when I saw this, I thought it seemed WAY OUT OF LINE of what other posts here seem to offer for “families” and “kids.”

    So while I agree we live in an over-protective time, serving underaged kids alcohol because a liquor store owner thinks it’s a good idea is a curious idea.

    What’s next, “learning” about E-cigs (all the fun of nicotine w/o the harmful smoke)?

  13. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  July 31, 2014 @ 10:18 am

    There is no mention in Sevrens’ article, or this recap, that teaching “means giving underaged kids alcohol.”

    Sevrens says that it’s her hope that by teaching, the kids will understand that drinking should be more about quality over quantity “when they are mature enough to enjoy wine responsibly”

    In the full article she says “My husband and I have been educating our boys about wine from an early age, teaching them how to smell and observe, without ever allowing them more than a pinky taste (and that’s strictly in the case of a special occasion bottle).”

    My comments never suggested that I allow my children to have alcohol, only that I don’t make alcohol a forbidden thing. I model responsible drinking when I enjoy a glass of wine with my meal, which is actually just a few times a month. Yes, my father let me have tastes growing up, but he was European and it was the 70s.

  14. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 31, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    I think everyone is missing the point of this article. It is about educating the palates of limousine liberals children. Could imagine the horrors one would feel if their 8th grader came home from a party drunk on MD 20/20 or Thunderbird as opposed to a nice Brunello di Montalcino, Petrus, or maybe some Stag’s Leap? I wonder what pairs best with Dorito’s and popcorn?

  15. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 31, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    But Georgette,

    Your recap includes, “Sevrens refers to an Eric Asimov blog “Teenage Drinking: Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges?” And links to the article.

    And while she does expressly state: “I give my kids wine,” it’s hard not to she it’s what she implies with, “’As you look at many countries in the Old World, such as Italy and France, wine is part of every lunch and every dinner; a spoonful of wine is mixed into the child’s water as a symbol that he or she is part of the family. It is not the forbidden fruit it has become this side of the Atlantic,’ says Sevrens.”

    However, you do expressly state it: “Growing up with a Greek father, wine was always on the table and I was frequently allowed to have a sip.”

    And if I substitute a “puff from a cigar,” with a “pinky taste” or “sip” of wine (both terms are featured in your story), I don’t see much of a difference as both exposes kids something enjoyed by many, but yet can be rather harmful.

    I believe this- how kids are exposed to alcohol- is a legitimate question (and I do support reconsidering our drinking age), my only problem is that on this site, specific to other serious parenting issues focusing on protecting kids, this seems to be the antithesis of that focus.

    To this, flipside seems to make the most sense of this contradiction.

  16. POSTED BY qby33  |  July 31, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    Ah, yes…I believe flipside beat us all to the real point behind this story!

  17. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 31, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

    Ah, yes….now we know that all the limousine liberals drink wine while all the cadillac conservatives drink…..The hard stuff?

  18. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 31, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

    If alcohol isn’t a “forbidden thing” for one’s kids, that what kind of “thing” is it? One where a certain small bhit of experimentation is encouraged?

    My own exposure to alcohol began with an occasional pilfered bottle of beer from a friend’s father’s stock. Continued on to sacramental wine (some of the good Franciscans didn’t notice for what I hope is an obvious reason) Went on into college where I learned the glories of Ballantine kegs and Paisano in gallon jugs. Would I have been better off if my mother had allowed me an occasional taste of distilled spirits? Iff, to say the least. Why not simply admit that it was a silly column by a rather obvious “friend” to the Baristas and regular advertiser?

    It’s also hard to imagine limousine liberals stocking just to wine. Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill and their ilk, those were fairly two-fisted drinkers. As was Wilbur Mills. All Dems.

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